I was grateful to be able to interview Chef Brad Ball at La Parada Bree Street last week, in preparation for the announcement of his appointment as the new Harbour House Group Executive Chef, given my (then) forthcoming trip overseas.
Chef Brad was beaming, and shared how excited he is to be joining the Harbour House Group. He had met Harbour House Group founder Michael Townsend many years ago, when Michael had opened Polana, and Chef Brad worked at Olympia Café, both in Kalk Bay. Chef Brad laughed when he told me that he applied for a job at the Harbour House Group restaurants over the years, since 2001, but had not managed to work for the Group, until now. It was fortuitous for the two men that they met up again at the Mojo Market, when Michael came to pop in, and saw Chef Brad there at his The Rib Shack stand. The rest is history, as they say in the classics, Chef Brad having joined the Harbour House Group as Group Executive Chef of all its restaurants as of 1 August.
For me, Chef Brad has been synonymous with his cooking at Bistro Sixteen82, having opened the restaurant in Steenberg. His Beef Tataki is legendary, and he was the first to introduce this Asian style seared Beef, with an Asian spice sauce, in Cape Town. I used to call in to order a portion and collect when I was driving past the entrance to Steenberg, I loved it so much. Chef Brad did seem to indicate that a tapas version of this dish can be expected at the La Parada restaurants in the Group.
After leaving Bistro Sixteen82, Chef Brad opened a number of restaurants at Peddlars on the Bend, until he left earlier this year, and opened The Rib Shack at The Mojo Market in Sea Point. He has an agreement that he can continue running this operation, which will be manned by his three chefs. He serves different kinds of ribs, offering six types of sticky sauces, as well as sides. He is proud of his concept, describing it as ‘fast food done slow‘. He wanted to do something different after leaving Peddlars on the Bend, something that was a quick service food outlet. His Chef Zane has only worked with him, for the past four and a half years, and this suits Chef Brad just fine, as Zane knows exactly how Chef Brad likes things done.
Chef Brad started as a consultant chef before his formal appointment, and is working on La Parada first, and its new Summer Menu. He has addressed current menu items that are not ideal, and is training the staff in the central kitchen, as well as the head chefs for each of the restaurants, so that they can train their chefs in turn. The food style will be ‘simple and authentic’, with no ‘schmears or dots’!
Chef Brad raved about how serious the Harbour House Group is about its business, being quick and efficient when dealing with Head Office, and there is a ‘lekker vibe’ amongst the staff, he said. He loves the camaraderie amongst staff, something which he finds unusual in large restaurant groups. He said that his appointment is ‘an exciting new chapter’ for him, and he will grow further as a chef. The management staff has tasted a first set of dishes, and there will be a further tasting shortly. I was told that a blackboard will announce weekly special menu items, which are driven by seasonality. Printed menus will carry the signature dishes. Chef Brad said that it is likely that the new menu will be launched at the beginning of September.
New desserts will be designed too, but Chef Brad said that sweet treats are not so big on Spanish tapas menus. However, he has created some special desserts, having done some research, he shared with me.
Chef Martin Senekal, the La Parada Executive Chef, leaves the Harbour House Group at the end of August.
Chef Brad Ball, Group Executive Chef, Harbour House Group. www.bradball.co.za. Twitter: @ByBradBall Instagram: @BradBallCT
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein